Currently, the fashion industry is among the top producers of environmental toxicity, second only to the oil and gas industry. It is increasingly becoming the source and enabler of pollution, landfill waste, and worker exploitation.
According to A New Textile Economy Report, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from textiles production totaled 1.2 billion tons of CO2 in 2015, and are growing. They also report that more than 20% of industrial water pollution globally, is attributed to the processing of textiles.
There is also a growing concern among experts that these toxins are making their way to our food sources worldwide. However, the real damage of these toxins is most visible in small towns in third world countries. For example, in Punjab India, the chemicals used in the farming of cotton have destroyed the health of the farmers and the people in the surrounding community as cancer and other diseases are now rampant.
Rising Heaps of Garbage
The human population on the planet is growing, and people are spending on fashion like never before. For decades, people have bought clothes, shoes, cosmetics, and decor, oblivious to the environmental and social impact of their fashion choices.
According to a film by the Economist, True Cost of Fast Fashion, the fashion industry is the fastest growing category of landfill waste in the UK. While in another documentary, The True Cost, it tells us that the US alone produces 11 million tons of textile waste each year, most of which is not biodegradable.
Horrible Working Conditions
Today, over 98% of fashion labor is outsourced to low-cost economies like Bangladesh, China, and India. The demand for cheap clothing and unmonitored working conditions have led to the serious exploitation of workers. Many are not paid a minimum wage, are overworked and work in conditions harmful to their health.
But this is not the worst of it all. Fashion manufacturers are employing an unaccounted number of enslaved child laborers in developing countries. According to a UNICEF report, over 160 million children are bonded into slave labor worldwide, most working in the fashion supply chain.